The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing

Leadership and Development 

Nondegree Options for Expanding a Leadership Portfolio

Michael R. Bleich, PhD, RN, FAAN; Jan Jones-Schenk, DHSc, RN, NE-BC


Organizational leaders are time-challenged to stay attuned with dynamic health care and business environments, leaving time for professional development at a premium. Beyond interorganizational leadership programs, learning options for nondegree-enhanced education are provided, referencing some of the high-quality, high-volume programs available at no or low cost.

J Contin Educ Nurs. 2016;47(7):299–301.


Organizational leaders are time-challenged to stay attuned with dynamic health care and business environments, leaving time for professional development at a premium. Beyond interorganizational leadership programs, learning options for nondegree-enhanced education are provided, referencing some of the high-quality, high-volume programs available at no or low cost.

J Contin Educ Nurs. 2016;47(7):299–301.

The desire of the nurse leader/manager to expand leadership competencies can be outstripped by the realities of work–life balance. Interorganizational leadership programs offer some capacity for meeting these needs. It is unrealistic to put the full burden of leadership development on professional development educators who also establish broad-based programs for multiple stakeholders. High-quality, low- or no-cost nondegree options are available to enrich leadership development, and the professional development educator can be a champion for these time-sensitive learning options.

Public Libraries Have Evolved

With the advent of increasingly sophisticated search engines available on the worldwide Web, the public library is often overlooked as a crucial and no-cost resource for leadership development. Using the Saint Louis County Library system as an example comparable to most midsized and larger urban areas, any card holder can access thousands of nondegree course options, some offering continuing education credits. Three proprietary learning corporations offer options available at no cost through this library system (, but readers should check with their own locales for similar services. Gale Courses are widely available, interactive and instructor led, with each course being six weeks in length, starting 6 ( Course topics related to health care fall into categories entitled accounting and finance, business, computer applications, health care and medical, and more. A second alternative is ({creative}&, which is an online learning resource that provides video tutorials with timely and sophisticated business topics. Examples of current topics include performance-based hiring, break-even and cost-volume-profit analysis, and business agility. Universal Class (, the third example, offers more than 500 courses that are self-paced video courses, many with a Continuing Education Unit option. I have found their computer and business courses to be particularly useful, with learning adjuncts that provide current reference materials and short quizzes to help the learner gauge learning outcomes.

These are not endorsements, but examples of no-cost learning options available for public use. They are relevant for health care professionals who have particular learning needs that are job or advancement related. Professional development educators may want to explore these and other similar learning providers through partnerships with a local library system or use an internal health care librarian negotiate access to these types of learning resources.

Not-for-Profit Learning Exemplars: The Kauffman Foundation, Kahn Academy, and Ted Talks

The Kauffman Foundation ( is a rich and ready resource for developing the entrepreneurial leader. The Kauffman Founders School is an online no-cost video education program designed for real-time learning and application. Through the Founders School, leaders can gain competencies from top-rated subject experts, with reading references, impact guides, tools and expert advice. The Web site ( will take you to the school, which offers leadership topics such as leadership and motivation (motivating by autonomy, mastery, and purpose; attunement in leaders; surviving rejection; and how to pitch and persuade), surviving the entrepreneurial life (what to share with family, and balancing work and family), powerful presentations (telling visual stories, crafting a Wow-statement, and top mistakes), and board relations (how board members perceive the organization, managing board relationships, and running a board meeting). These topics are shared to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, which is ideal given the changing health care system.

Well known to younger students, adults can easily benefit from the Khan Academy (, founded by Salman Amin Khan as a not-for-profit YouTube channel that currently contains nearly 7,000 video lessons. The Khan Academy enjoys an outstanding reputation. Each lesson has been developed for rapid information uptake in focused bites of tested information. In the science and engineering category is a section on health and medicine, where the health care system is presented (insurance, drug pricing, Medicare, and more). The economics and finance category includes sections on micro and macro-economics, finance and capital markets, and entrepreneurship. Other math and science refreshers may be useful to learners. Also, note that there is an NCLEX-RN test preparation review available.

TED Talks (based on the convergence of technology, entertainment, and design) was founded by Richard Saul Wurman as an exclusive think tank ( As the talks gained in popularity and prestige, the nonprofit Sapling Foundation, led by Chris Anderson, assumed responsibility and retaining the focus on finding the most interesting people on the planet, using an issues-based crisp and brief presenting format to engage participants in deep learning. TED Talks inspire and are animated, its topics provocative and relevant including many subjects useful to health care leaders, such as communication, celebrating failure, cancer trends and discoveries, public health, public speaking, and other topics too numerous to mention. TEDx programs are local or regional derivatives, allowing learners to experience TED-level presentations face to face in many cities throughout the United States and, increasingly, abroad.

University-Based Certificate Programs

Nurse leaders in health care can expand their resumé by taking advantage of university-based programs that offer certificates in leadership and development. These programs could include for-credit options that could transfer toward a formal degree should that be desired. Certificate programs are not, however, intended for this purpose of degree granting. Certificate programs offer focused areas of study, possess academic rigor and are short-term, usually spanning not more than two or three semesters with credit ranges from six to 12 units of study. Examples of certificates available and relevant to health care include human resource management, global management, change management, and business leadership and management, as noted through the business school of one midwestern university. Certificate programs carry significant weight in information technology circles, as they represent state-of-the-science and practice, keeping learners close to the actual work setting and all of its demands. Typically, a university-based program will be offered in a traditional semester-long cohort and may or may not include asynchronous options for completion.

Staying Attuned

Too often, we health care professionals create a world unto ourselves. Although it is true that the nature of our mission has idiosyncrasies in who we care for and the system functions, leadership requires a broad perspective applied locally. It requires adaptation and knowledge. Daniel Pink stated that attunement in leadership is “perspective taking: can you get out of your own head and see things from someone else's point of view?” Pink reflected that individuals who hold roles that are aligned with power easily lose perspective (

For this reason, all of the references presented in this article include options for learning using resources that extend beyond exclusive health care resource materials. The intention is to bring health care leaders closer to those we serve and who represent other disciplines and life experiences. Interprofessional and social learning provide their own richness in relating and connecting to others. They expand relationships and perspectives, new ways of thinking and perceiving, and help us to lead on!


Dr. Bleich is President and Chief Executive Officer, NursDynamics, Chesterfield, Missouri.

The author has disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Michael R. Bleich, PhD, RN, FAAN, President and Chief Executive Officer, NursDynamics, 2702 Wynncrest Manor Drive, Chesterfield, MO 63005; e-mail:


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